Danish oil is a term we are used to hearing of very often in woodworking as it’s a popular finish used in many different projects.
While Danish oil sounds like something that comes from Denmark or relates to Denmark, the product itself actually has nothing to do with either Denmark or the Danish people.
In essence, Danish oil is a manufactured blend that contains a combination of chemically processed natural oils such as linseed oil and tung oil and chemical additives such as varnish, turpentine, and mineral spirits.
As there is no exact recipe for Danish oil, the contents can show a decent amount of variety depending on the brand you purchase, but we can say that the product is far from natural.
Considering this, a vital question to ask is whether it’s suitable to use Danish oil in food-related projects, as there is good reason for it not to be food-safe with all the chemicals inside.
So, is Danish oil food safe?
Most danish oils are definitely not a food-safe finish due to the processed natural oils and chemicals they contain – and you should never use them for projects that come into contact with food.
While the contents of some Danish oil brands don’t list any chemicals, we still highly recommend refraining from using it for anything food-related, as the natural oils contained in Danish oil are usually not pure or raw.
Moving on, we will analyze the contents of Danish oil products in greater detail to have a better understanding of what causes them not to be food safe.
Is Danish Oil Food Safe?
Danish oil is definitely a confusing name for a product that is a blend of chemicals that have nothing to do with Denmark in any shape or form, especially considering that the term “Danish oil” means something different for every manufacturer.
To really understand why Danish oil is not food safe in most cases, we decided to analyze the contents of most of the Danish oil products we have seen on the market.
Here are the most common ingredients between the Danish oil products we have analyzed.
- Tung oil – Food-safe only if it’s completely pure.
- Linseed oil – Food-safe only if it’s raw (not boiled).
- Varnish – Not food-safe.
- Mineral spirits – Not food-safe.
- Synthetic resins – Not food-safe.
First off, let’s start with the natural oils that are found in Danish oil.
Tung oil or linseed oil is the main ingredient in all Danish oil products, which are both food-safe natural oils in their pure and raw forms.
Considering that even most tung and linseed oils on the market aren’t actually entirely pure (they usually contain a minuscule amount of actual oil, with chemicals filling in the rest), we find it hard to believe that the oils in Danish oil products are pure unless stated.
Then comes the chemical additives, which have no chance of being food-safe in any form.
We have noticed that most Danish oils contain at least one of the following; varnish, mineral spirits, or synthetic resins, which automatically makes it impossible for the product to be food-safe.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise by the manufacturer, you should always assume that Danish oil is not food-safe and refrain from using it in projects such as cutting boards or salad bowls where the surface comes into contact with food.
Can I Use Danish Oil on Butcher Blocks?
As most Danish oils are not food safe, we recommend against using them on butcher blocks to be completely safe unless the manufacturer of the Danish oil you have bought states that their product is food-safe.
As alternatives, we can recommend using natural drying oils that are completely food-safe, such as pure tung oil, raw linseed oil, or walnut oil, which have similar qualities to Danish oil.
Can I Use Danish Oil on a Cutting Board?
You should not use Danish oil on a cutting board due to the simple fact that it’s highly likely not to be food-safe.
While there are exceptions to this, such as manufacturers stating that their Danish oil product is food-safe, it’s best to stay on the safe side as much as possible.
Some food-safe alternatives you can use for your cutting board are pure tung oil, raw linseed oil, or walnut oil if you would like a non-drying oil similar to Danish oil.
Food-Safe Danish Oil Alternatives for Finishing Wood
With so many natural, food-safe finishes to choose from, you can easily find a replacement to Danish oil you can use safely for your food-related projects.
First, let’s start with drying oils, which will behave most similarly to Danish oil.
- Pure tung oil – Pure tung oil is one of the closest food-safe alternatives you can get to Danish oil, considering that most Danish oils contain tung oil anyway. An important point to be mindful of is that it’s absolutely crucial for the tung oil you buy to be pure, as most tung oils in the market have chemicals in them.
- Raw linseed oil – Just like tung oil, raw linseed oil is a component used in Danish oil, which makes it a fantastic food-safe alternative. As there are also plenty of chemically processed (to increase drying speeds as linseed oil dries extremely slowly) linseed oils on the market, ensure that the one you purchase is raw.
- Walnut oil – Walnut oil is the last non-drying food-safe oil alternative to Danish oil on our list, and while it’s a fantastic option, the chance that it can cause reactions in people with nut allergies is something to keep in mind.
Compared to drying oils, non-drying oils require more frequent re-application, which is why they are often considered to be a treatment rather than a finish.
Here are some food-safe non-drying oils for your project.
- Fractionated (distilled) coconut oil – Completely odorless and tasteless, fractionated coconut oil is a product you can safely use to treat your food-related wood projects.
- Food-grade mineral oil – Just like coconut oil, food-grade mineral oil is also completely odorless and tasteless. While it requires frequent re-application, you can safely use it on all of your food-related projects.
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the non-oil food-safe finishes you can use.
- Food-grade beeswax – Food-grade beeswax is food-safe, but the fact that it gets easily damaged by heat may not make it the best option for projects with high heat exposure.
- Shellac – The beautiful glossy finish we are all familiar with is also food-safe and appropriate for usage in food-related projects.
While the words “Danish oil” sound innocent and natural, the reality is that it’s just another marketing name for a blend of chemicals that barely contain any pure oil at all.
As a result, you should always treat Danish oil as just another chemical product that should get nowhere near your food unless the manufacturer explicitly states that it’s food-safe and appropriate for usage in food-related projects.
With plenty of other completely natural products widely available, such as distilled coconut oil, shellac, or food-grade mineral oil, finding a suitable finish for your project won’t be too hard anyway.